The history of Market Harborough/Kibworth Rugby Union Football Club can be split into four eras as follows:
THE BEGINNING/PRE 2nd WORLD WAR
On December 13 1923 several enthusiasts met at the St Wilfred’s Institute, Kibworth and adopted the name of the village to form Kibworth Rugby Football Club. The members decided that the Club colours would be black shirts and navy blue shorts, however this soon became all black and although the inaugural match was arranged for Boxing Day 1923 no one can remember the actual opposition and therefore the first official fixture was played against Wigston “A” on 2nd February 1924 – the Club was up and running!
Several fixtures were played up to the end of April 1924 and records show that the first club captain was Bob Wilson who went on to captain the Club during its first five years.
The first full season was 1924-25 and regular fixtures were played against such opposition as Belgrave Juniors, Aylestone Athletic, Kettering, Syston; all in all 28 fixtures played at the aptly named “Floodies” ground close to the changing rooms at the rear of the Old Swan public house.
The third full season was significant as the club won the Leicestershire Junior Cup beating Highfields Medway 9 – 7 in the final played at no less a place as the Tigers’ ground in Leicester. The club seemed to like finals but unfortunately lost both played against Belgrave in the Junior Cup and the Leicestershire Sevens.
The club moved into the Thirties in a healthy position both financially and playing strength, supplemented by old boys of the Welland Park School in Market Harborough, and by the mid-thirties 2 sides were being fielded on a regular basis and a Club coach was also introduced. During this time the club moved grounds and played at the old recreation ground in Kibworth changing at the Old Cinema – results unfortunately were not brilliant but playing /committee strengths and the club’s finances were improving all the time. The club also were getting together socially with dances including the first club dinner held in 1938. Things were to change dramatically in many ways following the outbreak of the Second World War when playing was suspended for the duration and we now move into the second phase in the Club’s history.
THE 50’s – MID EIGHTIES
Local rugby like many sports during the war was not played on a regular basis but after the war the former enthusiasm came back slowly and on the 30th January 1950 several old Kibworth players met and decided to reform the Club.
The Club moved to a field in Fleckney Road Kibworth and changing rooms were again utilised at the Old Cinema with the first match played away against Old Wyggestonians on Saturday 23rd September 1950 – Kibworth losing 12 – 3, however, the club was up and running again enjoying an excellent season winning 19 with only the one loss in the first game.
During the fifties the Club was to undergo several major changes the main one being the move to Market Harborough in 1957/58 playing at the Little Bowden recreation ground and first using rooms at the Three Swans hotel and then the Collegiate School. The first home match was played against Wellingborough and during the 1958/59 season match fees and a regular 3rd XV were introduced. The Club faced uncertainties about its home base having to play several games at Bowden Hill before negotiating use of a pitch at Gores Lane, Market Harborough during the 1960/61 season.
Major decisions were taken by the committee and changing rooms and a clubhouse were built at Gores Lane with the opening game held on 7th October 1962 against old foes Wellingborough Town.
The Club moved forward swiftly during this period putting out three regular senior sides and a Colts side was formed in 1963. Kibworth RFC was now firmly settled at Gores Lane and rapidly became a force in local rugby; off the field the Club was very active holding dances and other social events as well as adding an extension to the clubhouse.
The Club moved into the seventies on a very firm footing and results were very encouraging. To mark the Club’s fiftieth birthday in April 1973 a celebration game at Gores Lane was held against its very first opponents, South Wigston.
The Seventies was a very successful period but the eighties were to bring more dramatic changes off the field. The Club in 1980 made the biggest off field move in its short history and on the 13th March 1980 purchased the land at Gores Lane from the owners Symington and Company. This resulted in the Club embarking on a major refurbishment project and providing a second pitch at Gores Lane and during the summer of 1984 work commenced on a brick built changing room extension which was to be opened on the 20th October 1985 the opposition being of course old rivals, Wellingborough Town. The playing side during this time quickly became stronger and the club was able to reach the semi finals of the County Cup fielding four regular sides plus a Colts and also sowing the seeds for an active mini rugby section.
The “winds of change” were not far away and we now move quite dramatically to the third phase in the club’s history.
MID EIGHTIES – Millennium
The Club was attracting many new players and during the summer of 1988 negotiations with McAlpine Builders were under way for the biggest move in the Club’s history – if many felt the move to Market Harborough in the mid fifties was sensational then the proposed change certainly grabbed the headlines in blockbuster fashion.
McAlpines finally purchased Gores Lane in early 1989 and the club moved lock, stock and barrel to its splendid new home situated in Northampton Road, Market Harborough where three pitches, floodlights and superb clubhouse and changing room building were provided – the opening ceremony was held on the 15th October 1989, the President of the RFU performing the procedures and a celebration game was held against, no, not Wellingborough this time, but an international XV who narrowly beat Kibworth on the day 83 – 15.
The Club was again continuing to prosper. The smooth transition into the nineties took place and the club fielded six senior teams, colts and mini rugby during that time; the highlight being the winning of the Leicestershire East Midlands Division 1 in 1992 and several appearances in the County Cup semi finals.
The colts also grew stronger and appeared in the County Cup final in 1994 narrowly losing to Market Bosworth. Kibworth RFC moved into the new millennium on the crest of a wave and is still running 4 or 5 regular sides.
2000 – Present Day
In 2006 the most radical change in the Club’s history took place when members voted to change the name to Market Harborough RUFC.
Since then the club has continued to grow, particularly within the Minis and Juniors section, where the club accommodates up to 500 boys and girls aged 4-18 every weekend throughout the season, with girls junior teams as well as boys and the mixed minis teams.
In 2013/14 the club embarked on an ambitious clubhouse extension, adding three further changing rooms, a physio studio and a large presentation room. The extension was finally opened on 17th January 2014 by none other than English world cup winning captain & British and Irish Lion (and former Kibworth junior) Martin Johnson CBE.
The club has leased further pitches from the council, giving 7 in total. Recently, the club with the support of the council and several local charities including; Bowdens Charity, Howard Watson Symington Charity and the Harborough District Leisure Trust has secured funding to allow 5 of those pitches to be floodlit.
Over the last 16 years the First and Second XV’s have had excellent success and have been promoted several times, most recently in the 2018/19 season, with the 1st XV now playing in the Regional 2 East Midlands League in the 6th tier of English rugby. Other notable successes include the 2021/22 season for the 2nd XV in which the team remained unbeaten in the league and cup, winning both.
The junior teams are regularly successful in County Competitions (the under 15s, 16s and 17s are current champions) and in the last 2 season three of our former players have represented England Under 18s.
In 2021 the club started its first senior women’s team and they continue to go from strength to strength in the Women’s NC 3 Midlands (East) league.
2022/23 is Market Harborough RUFC’s centenary year, which will be marked with many celebrations, including a new bespoke beer and gin!
The club has, since 1923, been served by many fine individuals and it would not be correct to highlight any one person or group of people.
We should only hasten to say that the Club started in 1923 has maintained its very fine traditions both on and off the field.